Top 10 Horror Movie Islands!

Show of hands, how many of you have already punched your ticket to KONG: SKULL ISLAND this weekend? Seems a worthy investment considering how well received the flick has been so far. Take the plunge and report back with what you saw. But in the interim, we're going to be doing a little traveling of our own, and doing so with one question in mind: what makes an island setting such a perfect one for a horror movie?

Is it the remote, isolated, inescapable nature of a landmass surrounded by deep ocean waters that does it? Nowhere to run, very few places to hide? Whatever the case, such a marooned locale has been around since the dawn of the format. Flicks like THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, ISLAND OF THE LOST SOULS, HORROR ISLAND, ISLE OF THE DEAD, hell, even the original KING KONG, they all used the island-setting as a place of abject horror. So let's do one in kind. Matter of fact, let's do 10. Here below are our Top 10 Horror Movie Islands!

#1. BATTLE ROYALE (2000)

The unremitting J-horror action extravaganza BATTLE ROYALE is and was so goddamn good that the U.S. basically made a trilogy out of it called THE HUNGER GAMES. Highest form of flattery, right? Well how about the highest form of battery, as this movie pits a large population of friends and strangers alike in brutal, no-holds-barred fight to the absolute death when suddenly shipped out and dropped on a deserted island. So many wildly imaginative and highly inventive death-modes are on display throughout what becomes a total sensory assault of a movie. Christine Q, wherever you are, thanks for showing me this movie back in 2000!

#2. ZOMBIE (1979)

Look, when you're so bored of overrunning a tropical island with a legion of flesh-desiccated ghouls, you do what any normal person would do...pit a famished zombie versus a shark and film it...underwater! Indeed, just as Lucio Fulci's seminal undead opus ZOMBIE is infamous for having one of the all time best eye-gouging scenes, it's too known for this legendary showdown between a real life shark (minus its teeth) and a poor mustachioed bastard forced to wrangle a man-eating fish in the surf. Really though, you can tell Fulci is lovingly channeling horror movies that came before it, a la ISLE OF THE DEAD, ISLAND OF TERROR and the like. Nasty stuff!

#3. THE WICKER MAN (1973)

I recall watching THE WICKER MAN for the first time with my sister one night, and the eerie stretch of silence that befell the two of us after watching that hypnotically arresting finale. Seriously, we spoke not a word collectively for like 3 full minutes as we thought about all that had unfolded before our eyes. Our dogged detective, after a long and circuitous path through a throng of some of the creepiest and most bizarre island locals ever, is ushered headlong into a giant, sacrificial effigy at the edge of a cliff. There, he's lit ablaze, as the local occult dance the night away and rejoice in pure ecstasy. Nic Cage in the remake though? Oh lord!

#4. WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976)

If you take away nothing else from this here Top 10, here's a bit of homework for you. If you've not seen the splendid Spanish horror flick WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?, well, your AITH badge is revoked buddy! No, kidding, but we do wholeheartedly urge you to track this sucker down and see how creepily suspenseful the movie is, and how thought provoking the moral quandary of the plot becomes. See, when a married couple sets foot on a deserted island after a long boat ride, they're unceremoniously greeted by not a single adult, but rather a whole society of Lord of the Flies like hellions ready to kill any interloper, grown ones especially. The titular question looms, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?


Oh poor Leo, guy literally climbs a cliff for the great Martin Scorsese and is rewarded with nothing. Raped by a bear five years later though? Oscar gold! Oh we jest out of love, for both Leo and Scorsese's sumptuously atmospheric sleight of hand in SHUTTER ISLAND. What's so cool about the movie, in addition to grand role-playing revelation in the end, is how integral the island itself is to the story. Think about that eerie ass cave scene with Patricia Clarkson, or that dogged attempt of Teddy Daniels to reach the lobotomy-lab lighthouse. Or how about the nasty weather making it doubly difficult to maneuver. Was that fake too? TRUTHS AND LIES indeed!


The less said about the gormless 1996 remake the better, so we're happy to show deference to the original 1977 version of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Okay, so the real original was ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, too based on the classic H.G. Wells novel. But the 1977 version? What a f*cked up movie! You know the gist: a sole survivor of a shipwreck happens upon a remote island, only to find that a bat-shite scientist has holed up and been conducting anthropomorphically sadistic experiments there. Specifically, the mad doc (Burt Lancaster) is turning feral beats into humanoid creatures, or humanimals. Naturally, an uprising of sorts ensues, and the mad scientist is forced to bite off more than he can chew!

#7. JURASSIC PARK (1993)

I often wonder what JURASSIC PARK would look like had Michael Crichton directed it himself, as opposed to lending the material to his pal and perhaps the most accomplished filmmaker of all time, Mr. Spielberg. Guess we'll never know. That said, one thing remains certain, the original JURASSIC PARK was a landmark achievement in animatronic practical FX, a feat that's not lost its luster in nearly 25 years. As for the island of the story itself, it's so damn alluring, so damn majestic to think reanimated dinosaurs good operate peaceably inside a tourist park. Of course, they couldn't, and it isn't long before the park becomes one large feeding ground for a multitude of prehistoric beasts!

#8. THE ISLAND (1980)

Nope, not even Scarlett Johansson's fine ass could save Michael Bay's big, dumb, hollow remake of THE ISLAND, which is why we happily call your attention back to the 1980 original. And don't get it twisted, that gorgeously permed Michael Caine is not from JAWS: THE REVENGE, although THE ISLAND scribe Peter Benchley did write the original JAWS. Instead, what we get is a look at a bizarre race of furtively brainwashing pirates who've congregated at remote island near the Bermuda Triangle. The only escape? Death! The highly underrated director Michael Ritchie (FLETCH, BAD NEWS BEARS) injects the film with a raw authenticity that's hard to deny. Hell, to this day, Michael Caine refuses to discuss the film. Not so for JAWS 4!


No horror list of any kind feels complete without the inclusion of the great Mario Bava, and since he aptly essayed the horror island motif in his 1970 slasher flick 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON (best title on this list by the way), we proudly fete the man here and now. The flick follows a handful of rich, swanky swinger types who are invited by a scientist to come rest and relax on his remote vacation island. Once there, he reveals a formula of his that is bound to make a fortune. When he refuses to sell, each tourist begins gorily dying off one by one, their bodies methodically stacked inside a meat locker. Though upset with the script, Bava's overall contempt for this hired-hand job gives an added nasty nihilism many others don't have.

#10. SHOCK WAVES (1977)

Say what? Come on. How is a gaggle of bald, begoggled underwater Nazi zombies NOT the best way to get a party started?! Stop it. Okay fine, if that doesn't do it for you, how about the great Peter Cushing conducting the whole damn thing? Indeed, such is the case for the little known 1977 horror flick SHOCK WAVES, directed by Ken Wiederhorn (EYES OF A STRANGER, DARK TOWER), in which a deranged Nazi commander breeds a race of undead 4th Reich ghouls for his own personal gain. Interestingly, I do believe this is the only movie in which zombies of any kind resort to drowning people as their primary mode of killing. Weird.
Tags: Hollywood

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